What you might have missed…Prada-nauts, tea and diabetes, women and chess, and cat purrs

The Astro wears Prada 

Axiom Space, appointed to design space suits for NASA’s Artemis Moon missions, has enlisted a fashionable new collaborator.  

Prada, the world-famous Italian design house has been announced as Axiom’s spacesuit collaborator for the Artemis III mission, where NASA will return humans – including the first woman and person of colour – to the lunar surface.  

Image of an astronaut suit glove.
Axiom Space’s new AxEMU custom glove design will enable astronauts to work with specialised tools to accomplish exploration needs and expand scientific opportunities. Credit: Axiom Space

It will be the first crewed moon landing since 1972. But why Prada? It’s, seemingly, not merely a publicity stunt. 

“Prada’s technical expertise with raw materials, manufacturing techniques, and innovative design concepts will bring advanced technologies instrumental in ensuring not only the comfort of astronauts on the lunar surface, but also the much-needed human factors considerations absent from legacy spacesuits,” says Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini.  

Axiom says Prada’s engineers will collaborate on developing materials that can withstand the unique extremes of space and the Moon.  

Perhaps the launch of the collaboration’s first design will need to take place on a launchpad, rather than a runway. 

A cup of tea
Credit: congerdesign from Pixabay

Drinking tea linked to lower diabetes risk

Chinese and Australian researchers have found that people who drink dark tea everyday (not black tea) have a 53% lower risk of prediabetes, and a 47% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, than those who do not. 

Dark teas like Pu’er and Liubao, also called fermented teas, have been fermented after being picked and oxidised

“The substantial health benefits of tea, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, have been reported in several studies over recent years, but the mechanisms underlying these benefits have been unclear”, says study co-lead Associate Professor Tongzhi Wu from the University of Adelaide. 

“Our findings hint at the protective effects of habitual tea drinking on blood sugar management via increased glucose excretion in urine, improved insulin resistance and thus better control of blood sugar. These benefits were most pronounced among daily dark tea drinkers.” 

The researchers performed a cross-sectional study on 1,923 adults, living in 8 different Chinese provinces. 

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. 

Woman playing chess
Credit: Michal Vrba on Unsplash

Who are the pawns in the chess game of life? 

Even the parents and mentors of chess-playing girls tend to believe they have less potential, according to new research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology

“It’s disheartening to see young female players’ potential downgraded, even by the people who are closest to them, like their parents and coaches,” said lead researcher Sophie Arnold, a doctoral student at New York University, US. 

The researchers ran an online survey of 286 parents and mentors of 654 children, taken from a US Chess Federation mailing list. 

Both parents and mentors said that girls’ highest potential chess ratings were lower than boys’, especially if they thought brilliance was required to succeed in chess. 

“Continued structural support for all female players is needed to improve girls’ and women’s experiences in chess,” says Arnold. 

A sleeping ginger cat
Credit: Patrick Slade on Unsplash

Cats purr without thinking… literally

And here we were thinking cats purred because they love being around us. It might be time for a reality check.  

Viennese researchers have found purring – as opposed to the range of other sounds generated by our feline masters – requires no ‘neural input’ to the voice box.  

A controlled experiment was conducted by vocal scientist Christian Herbstat and colleagues at the University of Vienna where eight terminally ill, euthanised cats had their larynges removed (with owner permission) and pumped with humid air to see whether any sound could be produced.  

In all cases, low-frequency purrs were elicited by the larynges. With no brain connection, it suggests that there need not be active muscle contractions for the phenomena to occur in a live cat. The reason appears due to dense vocal ‘pads’ within the voice box allowing these low-pitch purring sounds to be created by kitty. 

“Anatomical investigations revealed a unique ‘pad’ within the cats’ vocal folds that may explain how such a small animal, weighing only a few kilograms, can regularly produce sounds at those incredibly low frequencies such as 20-30 Hz, or cycles per second – far below even than lowest bass sounds produced by human voices”, says Herbst.  

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